Vincenzo Nibali will chase the world champion’s rainbow jersey after completing a hat-trick of Grand Tour victories by winning the 101st Tour de France.
The Italian, winner of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and 2013 Giro d’Italia, became the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours, after Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador.
Now the 29-year-old is targeting the rainbow jersey.
“After winning the Vuelta, the Giro and the Tour, I’ll keep focusing on Grand Tours but I’d also like to crown it all with a rainbow jersey one year,” said Nibali, who does not believe this September’s circuit in Ponferrada, Spain suits him.
Nibali (Astana) wore the fabled maillot jaune for 18 of the Tour’s 21 race days, having first taken the race lead on day two in Sheffield with his first of four stage victories.
He is the first Italian winner of the Tour since Marco Pantani in 1998.
“It’s very difficult to make a comparison between Pantani’s victory and my victory, because Marco won his in the last week, two days before the end,” said Nibali.
“For me it’s the contrary – I had the yellow jersey on my back after two days.”
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees for a second successive year to bookend the race after his opening stage win in Harrogate. Germans won seven of the 21 stages.
But Nibali was the race’s dominant rider, winning by seven minutes 52 seconds from Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale).
The 37-year-old Peraud and 24-year-old Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished second and third to ensure there were two Frenchmen on the Tour podium for the first time since 1984, when Laurent Fignon won ahead of Hinault.
“The Vuelta was perhaps the most important competition because it gave me the strength to go into the Giro and the Tour in the following years,” added Nibali. “The Giro was an important competition for the Italian public. Within the context of the Tour de France it’s something even greater than the Giro. It’s a more emotional, intense moment.”
Nibali was seventh in traditional Tour warm-up the Criterium du Dauphine, leaving some to question whether he would challenge in the Tour.
“The first part of the season was very difficult,” he said.
“My daughter was born – I’m not saying it’s a problem, of course it’s a great source of happiness – and I preferred to stay with my family, my wife and it slowed down my preparation.
“I was a bit late in maturing this season, but I still continued to believe in reaching this objective, the Tour.”
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) won the Dauphine, but endured a difficult Tour, abandoning after a torrid time.
Chris Froome (Team Sky), the 2013 winner, and two-time champion Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) also both abandoned with broken bones.
The question of ‘what if?’ has left many already eagerly anticipating the 2015 Tour, which starts in Utrecht.
Nibali, Froome, Contador, 2014 Giro winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Talansky are likely to start the race in Holland.
Nibali will likely face a greater challenge for the maillot jaune, having won in Sheffield, La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges, Chamrousse in the Alps and Hautacam in the Pyrenees.
His greatest time gain came on the cobbled fifth stage in northern France, when he demonstrated his tactical acumen.
He savoured Champagne on yesterday’s 137.5-kilometre concluding stage from Evry to the Champs-Elysees, where the sprinters’ teams set to work.
Peraud crashed as the racing began and had to fight to return to the peloton as up ahead Richie Porte (Team Sky) made a forlorn attempt to breakaway on the finishing circuit.
A bunch sprint was inevitable in the unofficial sprinters’ World Championships and the Australian was caught entering the final lap.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) – winner of four successive sprints in Paris from 2009 to 2012 as part of his overall haul of 25 – was absent having crashed out on stage one in Harrogate.
In Paris Kittel, winner of three of the first four stages of the race, claimed his fourth triumph to equal his haul of 12 months ago.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was second and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) third.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), the last remaining Briton, finished 39th to place 22nd overall, 59:14 behind Nibali.